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Renault, Better Place Battery Swap Deal Collapses

The Deal Supposedly Marked The End Of The Oil Age For Cars

Renault announced the end of the battery-swapping partnership deal with Better Place, the Palo Alto, California-based company started by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, after it burned through $800 million of its shareholders cash.

Better Place shareholders included GE, and British Bank HSBC which announced a $350 million investment in the project before the last Frankfurt car show. Better Place was then said to be worth $1.25 billion. Better Place planned to develop charging facilities for electric vehicles, battery swap stations and general services to spur the use of battery cars. At the last Frankfurt show, Better Place announced it would buy around 100,000 electric cars from Renault for delivery up to 2016 for use in Israel and Denmark.

Better Place founder Agassi said the deal with Renault marked the end of the oil age for cars. At the time, critics said the plan had big flaws. The economics of having huge stocks of hugely expensive spare batteries hanging around waiting to be swapped, look poor. The technology of quick recharging is questionable. Some experts say if you overdo quick recharging, you quickly render the battery useless.

A day after the news, Renault announced it had signed a deal with French media and construction conglomerate Bouygues, which would convert buildings to take care of the recharging needs of electric cars, including its own west of Paris.

Renault gave no hint of the financial scale of the deal, but did have some other good news. It sold an electric Zoe to company chairman Martin Bouygues.

 Neil Winton – May 30, 2013

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